With less than 24 hours until he leaves the fishbowl of the White House for the wide open spaces of Crawford, Texas, President George W. Bush put the “compassionate” back into his “compassionate conservative” slogan from 2000–though, given the bailouts and his stance on illegal immigration, I’m still looking for the “conservative” part–and commuted the sentences of imprisoned Border Patrol Agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos.
These men need to be home with their families — and on March 20, they will.
Bush did NOT pardon Ramos and Compean, so they will live with the same problems and hurdles facing felons nationwide. Employment may be difficult to come by, voting could be restricted. But they will have family, and they will be spending the next ten-plus years at home rather than in solitary confinement.
The decision to offer a commutation rather than a pardon no doubt came from Bush thinking that these agents did wrong, but were punished enough with time served. Personally, while I understand the problem with covering up the shooting of a Mexican drug dealer crawling into America with his load of drugs, I’d rather the focus be on a job well done–one less illegal drug dealer in America–than the ensuing technicalities. If our Border Patrol agents, after all, knew that the folks on their own side of the border made a practice of giving our sworn agents the benefit of the doubt rather than giving such a benefit to the people breaking our immigration laws, they may not have felt it necessary to cover up the shooting in the first place.
Regardless of the commutation, the story of Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos is a microcosm of what is wrong with the border. When illegal immigrants are taken into custody, one of the first things they see is a sign in Spanish which reads something along the lines of “IF YOU FEEL YOUR RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED, ASK FOR XXXXXXXXXX.” Border Agents must constantly struggle with the choice between doing the best job they can, or doing what they can to avoid prosecutorial scrutiny.
At the risk of blowing a gasket and ruining what is otherwise a fantastic day, I’d rather return to today’s decision. Because of the kindness and compassion of President Bush, Agents Compean and Ramos will essentially get ten years of their lives back. Their wives will have their husbands, their children will have their fathers.
I think a big “thank you” should go out to President Bush, but not at the expense of all those in the halls of Capitol Hill–on both sides of the political aisle–and outside the Beltway who spent much of the past few years working hard for the agents’ release.
Work may be hard to come by. The budget may not always add up. It won’t be easy. But these men are free, and freedom–and family–means everything.